Welcome to the The Röstigraben Letters, monthly letters between Kristin from Swiss Family Travel, and Laura from Let’s Explore. Married Swiss, Kristin, an Australian living in german-speaking Zug, and Laura a Dutch, living in french-speaking Geneva, unfold through their letters the cultural differences between both sides of the Röstigraben, learning more about Switzerland along the way. Read their letters (Kristin’s & Laura’s) and replies, and share your thoughts in the comments.
My letter is a reply to Kristin’s February letter from the other side of the Röstigraben. You can read her February letter here.
Hello from your end of the Röstigraben Kristin!
Yes, we made it across to the German speaking part of Switzerland for our February school holidays! That’s actually how we call them, no Sports-Ferien here. Skiers do also call them ‘ski break’, but of course not everyone skies. We are jealous that you have 2 weeks off in February as it is one of our most preferred school breaks of the year!
How lovely that you always return to the same town in February! We actually always do the exact opposite and often choose a different town for the February break, although we have a few favorites where we went to twice! I love the fact that changing towns every year makes us see and taste quite a lot of Switzerland. We often went to different villages in the French speaking part of the Valais, but we have also been to the German speaking part before, and we like that little change. Different food and saying Grüezi here and there. Especially my husband loves to Grüezi everyone, but always hopes they will not answer more than that back, because then he has to admit his German is actually not that good.
We arrived in Grindelwald on Saturday and it was really cold when we arrived! Now, 3 days later, it seems spring has started, and the snow quickly turns into ‘slush’ in the sunshine. So far, I have skied with our family for 1 day, but I am definitely the slowest of the family, as like you, I learned how to ski at a later age. I’ve also been on a lovely winter walk down the First mountain in Grindelwald and we went up to Kleine Scheidegg, which was so nice as we had also been there in summer and it was lovely to see the same place in a different season.
We didn’t put our kids in ski school this year due to the C-situation, which is actually the first time ever. Do your kids follow the ski classes of the Swiss Ski School? Ours love the Ski school and they always go to the group lessons. Our teen has finished all the levels and even got avalanche training in the end. Super interesting and a bit a part of the alpine culture to learn such skills.
Yesterday, we had a really cool sledging adventure in Wengen on top of Männlichen. There seems to be a much more developed sledging culture on this side of the Röstigraben! We do have sledging slopes as well, but here there are so many! Seeing all the people on the trains and buses with their sledges is something you do not often see in the French speaking part. At least, not with such a big choice of slopes to choose from. I really enjoyed it! It took us an hour and 40 minutes to slide down from Männlichen to Grindelwald Grund, combining parts of the trail through a forest, with parts with a beautiful open view on all the surrounding peaks! There were easy slow parts, but also some steeper ones and fun turns. We had a blast!
All in all, we really love the Berner Oberland region, in all seasons. What is actually funny is that my husband and kids are ‘Bernese’. They have that written as their Canton of Origin on their passport. Is your husband’s family originally from Zug? My husband was born in Geneva, but when you trace back the origin, his family is from St. Imier and from Studen, which are both in the Canton of Bern. When he was living in France, he used to receive his voting papers in German because of his Canton of Origin and he always had to ask his mom what it said. Luckily for him that has been changed when he moved back to Geneva. We are thinking of visiting his towns of origin sometime this year, as honestly, we have never been!
Capuns! Oh don’t get me started, I love Capuns! As a Swiss dish, Capuns actually came a bit as a surprise to me as well and as soon as we get to Graubünden, I always need to order Capuns! I’m still discovering so many Swiss dishes after all these years. I absolutely love the book on Swiss Bread. You have that book as well right? I baked a delicious bread from Neuchatel the other day by following the recipe in that book. The bread is called a ‘Taillaule Neuchâteloise’. I had never heard of it and loved the taste of lemon in that bread. I will definitely make it more often now that I know about it!
You mentioning Jass is quite interesting as it is not played that often on the French side of the Röstigraben. However, when you ask a Swiss on our side if they know how to play it, they all say yes. However, you hardly ever see someone play it! When last summer, we went to Flims like you, we took a day trip to Chur and in a café we saw this big Jass tournament going on. Very interesting for us to see, as I really had never seen that in the French speaking part before!
Oh, summer, you are right, it will be here before we know it even if it is difficult to imagine that in the middle of winter wonder land. Like you, I really have fond memories of swimming in those beautiful fresh lakes! Caumasee is incredibly beautiful, and that’s why it probably is so popular. Our favorite lake was Crestasee though, where it really seemed less crowded and very beautiful as well!
I also love swimming in our own lake in Geneva in summer. Have you ever been to Geneva? We have historic baths in the center of town called ‘Bains des Paquis’ which date from 1872. It has a nice restaurant / café on site, perfect for a Birchermüesli on a sunny summer morning. You can also get a massage here, and concerts are organized in summer. In winter, it is one of the places where you eat the best fondue in town.
But let’s hope on a beautiful spring first, I can’t wait!